History for the Rest of Us

The Threat of Nazi Germany

The Threat of Nazi Germany

Nov 19, 2012

On November 16, 1934 Winston Churchill delivered the following speech about the rising threat of Nazi Germany. Listen to the speech: The Threat of Nazi Germany Many people think that the best way to escape war is to dwell upon its horrors and to imprint them vividly upon the minds of the younger generation. They flaunt the grisly photographs before their eyes. They fill their ears with tales of carnage. They dilate upon the ineptitude of generals and admirals. They denounce the crime as insensate folly of human strife. Now, all this teaching ought to be very useful in preventing us from attacking or invading any other country, if anyone outside a madhouse wished to do so, but how would it help us if we were attacked or invaded ourselves? That is the question we have to ask. Would the invaders consent to visit Lord Beaverbrook’s exposition, or listen to the impassioned appeals of Mr. Lloyd George? Would they agree to meet that famous South African, General Smuts, and have their inferiority complex removed in friendly, reasonable debate? I doubt it. I have borne responsibility for the safety of this country in grievous times. I gravely doubt it. But even if they did, I am not so sure we should convince them, and persuade them to go back quietly home. They might say, it seems to me, “you are rich; we are poor. You seem well fed; we are hungry. You have been victorious; we have been defeated. You have valuable colonies; we have none. You have your navy; where is ours? You have had the past; let us have the future.” Above all, I fear they would say, “you are weak and we are strong.” After all, my friends, only a few hours away by air there dwells a nation of nearly seventy million of the most educated, industrious, scientific, disciplined people in the world, who are being taught from childhood to think of war as a glorious exercise and death in battle as the noblest fate for man. There is a nation which has abandoned all its liberties in order to augment its collective strength. There is a nation which, with all...

The Appeal of June 18 – Charles de Gaulle

The Appeal of June 18 – Charles de Gaulle

Oct 19, 2012

The following speech by General Charles de Gaulle, was an appeal to the French people to resist the German occupation. De Gaulle was the leader of the French Free Forces. He fled France for London on June 15, 1940 after Philippe Pétain, a World War I hero, signed an armistice with Nazi Germany. Winston Churchill gave de Gaulle permission to broadcast the speech three days later on BBC Radio. While the speech wasn’t widely heard in France, it is still considered to be one of the most important speeches in French History. The Appeal of June 18 “The leaders who, for many years, have been at the head of the French armies have formed a government. This government, alleging the defeat of our armies, has made contact with the enemy in order to stop the fighting. It is true, we were, we are, overwhelmed by the mechanical, ground and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it is the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans which are causing us to retreat. It was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans that surprised our leaders to the point of bringing them to where they are today. “But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No! “Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States. “This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today...

Never Has So Much Been Owed to So Few

Never Has So Much Been Owed to So Few

Aug 20, 2012

On August 20, 1940, two months after his speech to the world about the impending German assault on Britain, Winston Churchill delivered his “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” speech to the House of Commons as the United Kingdom prepared for the expected German invasion. He used to speech to persuade his countrymen that notwithstanding a series of defeats for the allies, the situation had improved. He credits ‘The Heroic Few’, the Royal Air Force, as being the last bastion between Germany and their aspirations for world domination. The Royal Air Force pilots were fighting the Battle of Britain at the time. The allied airmen would eventually become known as ‘The Few’ thanks to success of the RAF in the Battle of Britain. This was the first significant defeat for the Nazi war machine. When Churchill was reviewing the speech with “Pug” Ismay while travelling together, “…when he came to the famous sentence, ‘Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few’, Ismay said ‘What about Jesus and his disciples?’ ‘Good, old Pug,’ said Winston, who immediately changed the wording to ‘Never in the field of human conflict…'” Excerpt from the speech: The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War…Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. The speech would be one of the four most significant war speeches given by Churchill. The others were his “This was their finest hour”,”Blood, toil, tears, and sweat”, and the “We shall fight on the beaches” speech. Listen to an excerpt of the speech: To So Few Related Stories: Churchill ‘Finest Hour’ Enigma Machine Pact of Steel FDRs...

Churchill’s ‘Finest Hour’ Speech

Churchill’s ‘Finest Hour’ Speech

Jun 18, 2012

On June 17th 1940 the French requested an armistice after the fall of Paris three days earlier to Hitler’s armies. Holland, Luxembourg, and Belgium had also been conquered. With a realization that the hopes of Europe, and perhaps the world depended on Great Britain, Winston Churchill delivered his ‘Finest Hour’ speech to the House of Commons June 18, 1940. Churchill understood the gravity of the situation and in response delivered a speech that would help galvanize and inspire a nation. Listen to an audio excerpt of the speech.. The full transcript of the speech: I spoke the other day of the colossal military disaster which occurred when the French High Command failed to withdraw the northern Armies from Belgium at the moment when they knew that the French front was decisively broken at Sedan and on the Meuse. This delay entailed the loss of fifteen or sixteen French divisions and threw out of action for the critical period the whole of the British Expeditionary Force. Our Army and 120,000 French troops were indeed rescued by the British Navy from Dunkirk but only with the loss of their cannon, vehicles and modern equipment. This loss inevitably took some weeks to repair, and in the first two of those weeks the battle in France has been lost. When we consider the heroic resistance made by the French Army against heavy odds in this battle, the enormous losses inflicted upon the enemy and the evident exhaustion of the enemy, it may well be the thought that these 25 divisions of the best-trained and best-equipped troops might have turned the scale. However, General Weygand had to fight without them. Only three British divisions or their equivalent were able to stand in the line with their French comrades. They have suffered severely, but they have fought well. We sent every man we could to France as fast as we could re-equip and transport their formations. I am not reciting these facts for the purpose of recrimination. That I judge to be utterly futile and even harmful. We cannot afford it. I recite them in order to explain why it was we did not have, as we could have had,...

Tide Turns in Battle of the Atlantic

Tide Turns in Battle of the Atlantic

May 9, 2012

A Prize to Turn the Tide On May 9, 1941, The U-110, a U-boat of the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) was captured by the Royal Navy. The capture was one of the greatest prizes of World War II, since its contents would turn the tide in the Battle of the Atlantic. Capturing the U-110 Kapitänleutnant Fritz Julius Lemp was attacking a British convoy near Iceland. He had already successfully managed to sink three ships and damage two others between March 1st and May 9th, but his fate would be very different on this day. He left his periscope up just long enough that sailors on the HMS Aubretia spotted his wake. The Aubretia quickly manuevered towards the U-110 and began dropping depth charges. The HMS Bulldog and HMS Broadway joined, damaging the U-110 and forcing it to surface. Under threat of his boat being sunk, Lemp issued the order to abandon ship. Lucky Break U-boat captains always sank their ships rather than allowing them to fall into enemy hands, but on this occasion Lemp believed the U-110 to already be lost and hadn’t given the order to scuttle the ship. Upon realizing that the ship wasn’t going down, he attempted to swim back. It’s unclear if he was lost in the cold sea, or was shot by the British on his attempted return. The Prize The British boarding party quickly learned of their prize – a completely intact, un-sabotaged Enigma cryptography machine with rotors set, along with current code books. Knowing that the Germans would change their codes and cipher system if they realized the boat had been captured, everyone involved in the capture was sworn to secrecy, and the U-110 was sunk in the Atlantic rather than brought to port. Even the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt wasn’t informed of the capture until eight months after the event. The Enigma was taken to the Bletchley Park nerve center for code breaking (code-named Ultra) in Buckinghamshire. With the Enigma, the British would be able to eavesdrop on all of the Kriegsmarine’s communications to the U-boat fleet. After the War, Winston Churchill would tell King George VI “It was thanks to Ultra that we won the...